Seven ways to form a creation-care culture at church
In recent years, strong financial ministries have encouraged churches and families to be good stewards of their money, and have provided advice, tools, resources and practical tips for them.
We think churches need similar help in the area of environmental stewardship. Some organizations undoubtedly pursue environmental action because they’re merely following the culture. But for Christian ministries, being green is not a fad or a fashion. It can’t be about politics or posturing. Biblical environmental stewardship must be about caring for creation in a way that’s deeply rooted in faith and testifies to the Creator Himself. Here are eight basic ideas to help create such an environmentally conscious environment in your church:
1. Go deep. Start with Scripture, not with a focus on political issues or even environmental problems. Politics and science are constantly changing, but God’s Word is constant. Read what the Bible says about caring for creation and our God-designed relationship with it.
2. Give thanks. Plan a church emphasis around creation care in the Thanksgiving season, when churches have historically celebrated with gratitude the harvest of crops. “Thanksgiving is a much more natural time to focus on God’s good earth than secular holidays like Earth Day,” says Peter Illyn of Christian environmental ministry Restoring Eden.
3. Keep the Sabbath. Perhaps the most radical thing a church can do in the area of environmental stewardship is to commit to keeping the Sabbath. The Scriptures about Sabbath-keeping make constant reference to rest and care for the land as well as for people. God rested on the seventh day of creation to enjoy His good handiwork. Spending time with family and friends and enjoying the free outdoors is an act of resistance to the pressures of materialism and consumerism.
4. Get out! Encourage children (and adults) in your church to spend at least an hour a day outside. “Christians should take the lead in reconnecting with nature and disconnecting from machines,” says Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Inspire families in your church to turn off the TV, computer and video games, and instead help their kids have more “green time” than “screen time.”
5. Clean up. Pick a local park, stream or streetscape littered with trash and vandalism and have a cleanup day. If you need help organizing such an event, Web sites such as flourishlife.org or arocha.org have free guides and other useful resources. By coming together as a church, you demonstrate to your community that God actively cares for His creation—as do you.
6. Reach out. You may never have been to an Earth Day festival, but chances are the unchurched people in your community have. It’s the fastest-growing secular holiday, and it’s a great outreach opportunity. Visit one this year, and make plans to have an outreach table next year. Be a witness of the Creator who made the good earth those attendees are celebrating.
7. Audit your church. Let your youth group help do an initial church energy audit (visit flourishlife.org for help with this) based on last year’s utility bills and a facility inspection. Under the appropriate supervision, have them spend a day making energy-efficient improvements. Then put whatever money is saved toward their summer mission trip. Or get professional help like Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas did. After a major energy overall, the megachurch saved more than $1 million on utilities and water.
Jim Jewell and Rusty Pritchard are co-founders of Flourish, a ministry that encourages creation care for churches and families.